Sean Scully: TriptychsSean Scully: Triptychs

About the exhibition

An exhibition of triptych paintings by the international abstract artist Sean Scully (b. 1945).

This new exhibition is the first in the UK to explore the artist's engagement with the triptych structure, featuring major paintings, drawings and etchings from across the last 30 years. Best known as a painter of monumental works in oil, Scully has gained international prominence as one of the most admired painters in the abstract tradition, fusing the conventions of European painting with the distinct character of American abstraction. Working in the mould of Matisse, Mondrian and Rothko, Scully reduces painting to its simple rudiments of form and colour, revealing the medium's capacity for expressive power.

The triptych, which has its roots in Renaissance altarpieces, has obsessed the artist for over thirty years. Scully describes it as: "the other relationship, the number three, which seems to have sacred, mystical implications for us, not least because it gives us relief from the mirror - the simple reflected self."

Whilst Scully creates nuanced abstract paintings that engage with the tactility of paint and surface, he has used the triptych format to meditate upon ideas about existence and human relationships. In the early 1980s Scully was profoundly affected by the experience of seeing Duccio's Maesta (1308) in Sienna, an image of the Madonna and child surrounded by the saints, and subsequently painted an abstract homage made of three panels of unequal width. After the death of his son Scully made a painting that takes refuge in what he sees as the mystic power of the triptych and its ability to give form and place to his sorrow.

This exhibition will bring together major recent paintings, as well as drawings and etchings in the triptych format, presented in a suite of three rooms that mirror the form of his artworks. The exhibition celebrates the Gallery's recent acquisition of a major new painting, Dark Pink Triptych (2011), recently gifted by the artist and an anonymous donor.

Simon Martin, Head of Exhibitions and Collections at Pallant House Gallery says: "In Western art history the triptych has been primarily associated with figurative art, with the religious paintings of Giotto, Duccio and Simone Martini in the early fourteenth-century, through to artists such as Francis Bacon, Max Beckmann and Bill Viola in the twentieth-century. Scully is an almost unique example of a contemporary abstract painter who has embraced this particular format - not for its narrative or hierarchical possibilities, but, rather, because of the wider underlying emotional relationships and spiritual resonances it can suggest."